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Javelina: they look like a pig, walk like a pig, eat like a pig ... but the peccary is only a distant cousin.


Texas and northern Mexico probably hold the densest populations. Javelina are often taken as an addition during deer hunts in this region, but pre- and post-deer season javelina hunts are a fun option.

The javelina is probably one of America's most misunderstood creatures. Commonly referred to as "pigs," javelina are actually New World creatures only distantly related to the true pigs of the Old World. Their teeth are different, their stomachs are different, their breeding habitats are different ... and they have scent glands on both face and back that are totally absent in true pigs. The scent glands are used to mark their territory, and the odor is strong and pungent--you'll know if javelina are nearby.

The strong scent gives them other names-- including skunk pig and musk pig--but their real name is collared peccary, thus distinguishing them from other peccaries. The collared peccary, or javelina, is a salt-and-pepper gray animal with a distinctive "collar" of yellowish-white hair running diagonally from the middle of the back forward across the shoulders to the lower neck. Primarily a creature of deserts and dry thornbush, the collared peccary ranges from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona down through Mexico all the way to northern Argentina.

Peccaries are strictly animals of the Americas, and the collared peccary is the smallest. In southern Mexico, it shares its range with the larger white-lipped peccary, which is generally a creature of the deeper forest. In the dry Chaco thornbush of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina, one finds the Chacoan peccary the largest peccary known and the only one considered to be endangered. Some authorities believe there is a fourth species of peccary: the "giant peccary" of the Brazilian rainforest. Its existence remains unproven, and it may well be a local breed of collared peccary, extra-large due to ideal conditions.

Javelina typically roam in small family groups, but packs of 30 and more have been observed. Despite its fearsome appearance, javelina are generally harmless to humans. However, when surprised or threatened, a javelina will pop its jaws in a most frightening sound. Although aggression against humans is rare, reports from Bolivia recount attacks on humans by large packs.

It is not clear whether javelina should be treated as "small big game" or "big small game." Boone and Crockett does not keep records of javelina, but Safari Club does (based on skull measurements). Game laws generally treat them as big-game animals. Permits are by drawing in Arizona and New Mexico, and permits are required in Mexico. There are no tags for javelina in Texas, but the annual bag limit in most counties is generally two.

In mountainous country, they can be glassed and stalked; in flat terrain, they become more targets of opportunity. However, in addition to being smelly, javelina are also noisy. Many times I've been completely unaware that javelina were nearby until a squeal or bark gave them away as they squabbled among themselves. Their senses of smell and hearing are quite good, but their eyesight is poor. If you can get the wind right, they can usually be stalked to fairly close range, thus offering excellent opportunities for archery tackle and handguns.


Javelina are built like a pig with a piglike snout, but they are actually very small animals, standing up to 20 inches at the shoulder with adults weighing from 35 pounds to a maximum of about 55 pounds. White-lipped peccaries are much larger, weighing up to 85 pounds, and the Chacoan peccary are larger still, weighing up to perhaps 95 pounds.

Vertical tusks are pretty much the same between males and females, and the sows can actually be larger than the boars. It is thus difficult to determine sex, and both males or females are legal game wherever javelina are hunted. However, unlike true pigs, javelina are very slow breeders, so it's important to try to find a male or at least make sure no young javelina are nearby. Breeding can occur throughout the year, with females breeding only every second or third year. Multiple births are possible, but singles or twins are most common.

Javelina are omnivorous, feeding primarily on cacti, fruit, roots, and grass, but also eating insects and reptiles and occasionally small mammals. Their tusks developed for slicing into roots and tubers and plants such as prickly pear, but they fight aggressively among themselves and will use their tusks as defense against predators. Young javelina may be taken opportunistically by coyotes and bobcats, but because of their tight social structure and aggressive nature, adults are probably vulnerable only to larger predators, such as cougars and jaguars.


Javelina are small enough that any centerfire rifle from .22 Hornet upwards is adequate, likewise handguns from 9mm or .38 Special upwards. While power is not the issue on so small an animal, javelina are tough for their size and will escape into the thickest, thorniest brush if they can. They will also use those sharp teeth if wounded and cornered. Aim carefully at the shoulder or just behind the shoulder. If you're using a larger "deer rifle," you have too much gun. Aim very carefully behind the shoulder to reduce damage--though not large, the javelina is a really cool animal that makes a really nice mount. I still have the shoulder mount of the first one I ever shot more than 40 years ago.



Populations are unknown, but javelina are probably densest in Texas and least dense in South America, where unregulated subsistence hunting continues in remote areas. With such a large range, total numbers easily run into the hundreds of thousands and most probably into the millions.


Texas, where the majority of land is private and "fee hunting" is a way of life. Although javelina are largely harmless, most private landowners don't want too many of them, so fees for javelina hunting, especially during the off-season, are generally reasonable (certainly more reasonable than for deer hunting).


Arizona, where javelina are fairly plentiful and can be readily hunted on public land. Tags are by drawing, but Arizona's late winter/early spring "HAM" (Handgun, Archery, Muzzleloader) tags are relatively easy to draw, and this is actually an awesome off-season hunt.


"Javelina" comes from the Spanish jabali, meaning pig. "Peccary" is New World, coming from the Brazilian Tupi name, pecari.

Caption: A close relative to the collared peccary, the white-lipped peccary is larger and darker with distinctive white facial markings.

Caption: Javelina are extremely plentiful in southern Texas, offering a great add-on to a Texas deer hunt. This one had an extremely distinct white collar, which is where its proper name of collared peccary comes from.
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Title Annotation:species Spotlight
Author:Boddington, Craig
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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